Bulgur and Sorghum: Why You Should Give These Grains a Try
What It Is: "Sorghum is now used here in the U.S. as the basis for several brands of gluten-free beer, but it also makes wonderful baked goods," says Carol Fenster, PhD, author of Gluten-Free Quick & Easy (Avery/Penguin Group, 2007).
Sorghum is an ancient grain that originated in Africa and then went to India and the Middle East.
"Despite its use in Africa as a staple human food, in the U.S. it was mostly used as animal feed. It grows well in hot climates and does not require a rich soil," says Julie Miller Jones, PhD, a professor of nutrition at College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Hard to find in stores, whole-grain sorghum can be ordered directly from a grower at www.twinvalleymills.com, suggests Fenster.
Texture: When cooked, it is very chewy and hearty, much like bulgur.
Tastes Like: Some of the dark varieties have a stronger, more bitter taste. The light varieties taste like quinoa or millet or some rice pilafs. However, according to Fenster, "Many gluten-free people think that this grain tastes the closest to wheat. It has a mild, slightly earthy flavor that won't interfere with other foods."
Nutritional Information: (1/4 cup) 163 calories, 1.58g fat, 35.82g carbs, 3g dietary fiber, 5.42g protein.
Nutrients: (Daily values based on 1/4 cup) It's a good source of fiber (12 percent of daily value) and protein (11 percent). It also contains 2.11mg iron (about 12 percent), 138mg phosphorus (14 percent), and 168mg potassium (5 percent). Sorghum has heart-healthy vitamin Bs (thiamin 7.5 percent, riboflavin 4 percent, and niacin 7 percent).
Health Perks: This is a perfect gluten-free whole grain for those with celiac disease (those who are allergic to gluten). "Some varieties are very high in antioxidants. It also contains a waxy compound called a polycosinol, which lowers serum cholesterol," says Jones.
Best Served or Cooked With: The whole grains should be soaked overnight to soften them before cooking in water, says Jones. It makes a wonderful substitute for bulgur or wheat berries, says Fenster, and it can be used like couscous for a delicious mix of whole grain, vegetables, and meat. It can even be eaten like popcorn.
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